Carry On in the allotment – June

‘June is bustin’ out all over’, as the song from the musical Carousel goes. The title certainly applies to the present state of the allotment. After weeks of digging, planting, watering and general exertion, the ground is finally bursting into life. Potatoes, beans, peas, onions, leeks, courgettes, cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts, broccoli, beetroot and garlic are doing what comes naturally.

general viewAllotment progress in June

But then so are the weeds. There’s nothing more likely to spoil your day than having bindweed wrapped round your onions. Despite my weed-suppressing measures they still manage to make their unwelcome presence felt. I do admire their sheer determination to come to the surface, but I’m dedicated to making their job as difficult as possible.

I can’t be at the allotment every day – a week can pass by before I can return – and, in that time, a carefully weeded area has reverted back to jungle. One of the best investments I’ve made is weed-suppressant sheet. It keeps the weeds out and helps retain moisture. Planting seedlings through the sheet takes longer but saves huge amounts of maintenance time in the future. With luck, the sheet can be reused for other planting, so I can get a good return on my investment. I’m agonising about every bit of allotment expenditure, but items such as this, garden netting to keep off birds and canes for supports can be reused in the future, so they’re worth it.

potatoes bed
Time for bed: the potatoes are doing well

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 Recycle and reuse is becoming my mantra. I am, at present, considering a larger compost structure. Many fellow allotmenteers have acquired wooden pallets that they merely join together to form theirs, but, as I only have one pallet to my name, I will have to be a little creative. I’ve found that I can utilise the pallet struts to form a basic framework, and using cardboard packaging from a garden table completes the sides. I know the cardboard will eventually wilt from the weather, but by then, I plan to use foraged branches to complete the sides, like basketwork, which should be practical and give it a nice rustic feel.

Another bit of reusing has come to my aid in the form of the turfs of grass I removed when digging over the site. Months ago, I piled them up and left them to dry and rot down. Now, they help in suppressing the weeds on paths and around plants. At the end of the year I will consign them to the composter to go on to become the organic matter that will help nourish the soil in the future.

Bustin’ out all over: garlic, leeks and onions come to life

As well as the plants bursting with life, I’ve had those that didn’t get past first base. Lovingly planted carrots were enjoyed by snails and savoy-cabbage seedlings wilted in the sun because I couldn’t get down to water them – but that is, literally, the nature of the business. You always need a back-up.

Fellow allotmenters continue to offer encouragement, tips and free seedlings. Thanks to a neighbour’s surplus, I’ll be trying to grow celery and celeriac for the first time. Sharing surplus produce is wonderful. One neighbour, noticing a few gaps where beans had failed, offered me some of his – brilliant. Another (who is now my very best friend) brought to my attention the fact that there’s a communal hosepipe! No longer do I run the risk of developing arms like an orangutan ferrying watering cans to and from the water supply.

baby courgttes
Maybe baby: courgettes benefit from a weed-suppressant sheet

As the summer progresses, I’m constantly checking the weather, and I know I’ll be a more frequent visitor to the allotment after work for watering duty. The prospect of a future hosepipe ban is not one I want to contemplate, but it’s something that will have to be dealt with if the time comes. The allotment does require you to meet problems head on and solve them. It’s incredibly useful for developing practical skills you may not have realised you had. (It also teaches you not to keep secateurs, scissors and an open penknife in your back pocket prior to squatting down for some serious weeding). I look forward to watching the plot develop over the coming weeks, picking my first produce and adding plants for future harvesting.

broad beansThe broader view: beans are having a good month

I had intended to begin with this blog with the attention-grabbing ‘I’ve got bindweed round my spuds!’ For me, this illustrates the Carry On-style humour we English love. Can you imagine a better scenario for the Carry On team than to be let loose with all the comic potential of an allotment? I can’t look at my courgettes or sprouts without hearing the voices of Kenneth Williams or Sid James. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Carry On Composting has box-office hit written all over it. I must give it some thought next time I’m freeing my restricted tubers…

sid james

Carry On Composting – sample script (copywright Phil Crewdson)

Joan Sims: Sid, I heard you had sprouts…

Sid: I did but the antibiotics cleared them up a treat!

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